“Grandma, can you do cartwheels?” asked my young daughter with typical childish innocence, after demonstrating her own acrobatic abilities across the lawn. Grandma, though pretty spry for her age at that time, found the notion of doing cartwheels in her mid-seventies so amusing that she remembered this incident for the rest of her days. She eventually attained the age of 93 with some help from modern medicine and surgery, but during the last months of her life even walking had become impossible. As for myself, I don’t do cartwheels now, and one day my daughter will experience the same decline in strength. Such is the curse of mortality inherited from Adam.
It is only natural to want to live a long, active and healthy life, and many of us can be thankful that scientific discovery has added to our life expectancy or seen us through dangerous medical conditions. Medical research has found cures for many hitherto fatal diseases, and some scientists believe that they will one day be able to manipulate genes to slow down the ageing process, as the media reported a few years ago: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/4186324.stm
However, postponing death and the ageing process is one thing; it would be a foolish scientist who ever dreamt of abolishing the inevitable end that comes to all living creatures.
Many people, faced with this harsh reality, seek to lessen the ageing process by careful attention to exercise and diet, but even this philosophy can have its setbacks, as a recent piece of medical research on vitamin supplements has illustrated. There seems a cruel irony in the following news item concerning the apparent discovery that supplements thought to promote good health and ward off cancer and heart disease might actually hasten an early death. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/6399773.stm
Frequently men and women seek to disguise the effects of ageing by cosmetic treatments. Some spend large sums of money on cosmetic surgery whilst others rely on the various creams, colourings and make-up advertised on television and in magazines. One well known cosmetic manufacturer, advertising products to reduce facial wrinkles, uses the slogan “because you’re worth it” - implying that we have a right to look better than our mortal nature allows.
With all the interest in prolonging life and concealing our ageing process, it seems strange that so many people shy away from the real solution to the problem that is revealed in the Bible, namely the eternal life to be granted to the followers of the Lord Jesus Christ on his return to the earth. Diet and outward appearance have no part in this solution. Instead we are counselled to seek God’s righteousness and entry into the kingdom that will replace the present dominion of men, as this extract from Jesus Christ’s sermon on the mount suggests...
Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?… ...Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. [Matthew 6:25, 31-33]
The apostle Paul similarly taught that physical exercise was not the solution to ageing in his first letter to Timothy...
But refuse profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness. For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come. [1 Timothy 47-8]
As we grow older we may envy the energy of young people around us, but even they have limits. Everlasting life in the kingdom of God (for those that have followed the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ and been baptised into his name) will have none of the setbacks of our present existence - as the prophet Isaiah tells us...
Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.
And, unlike the famous cosmetic products referred to earlier, the reward of everlasting life is not offered to those who “are worth it” for we are told in Paul’s letter to the Romans that even the ungodly are offered reconciliation to God...
For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.
Let those who really appreciate life take up God’s offer. Unlike cosmetics, vitamin pills and gym sessions, it’s free. Paul, continuing in Romans 5:11-19 even referred to salvation of the faithful as a “free gift.” Consider also the words of Isaiah, whose symbols of bread, wine and milk look forward to New Testament teaching ( John 6:48-58, Matthew 26:26-29 and 1 Peter 2:1-3) and the “sure mercies of David” look back (2 Samuel 7) to the promise that David would one day see his descendent (Jesus, the Son of God and the Son of Mary) reigning on his throne in Jerusalem.
Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David.